Legal Question in Criminal Law in Texas

defered ajudication

Hello, I served 3 and a half year probation sentence, It was my first case ever. It was a felony theft $1500 dollars. The judge told me that, If I dont get into anymore trouble, It would not be a conviction. But I am still having problems with employment. Can you give me some advice

Asked on 8/23/04, 1:50 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Paul Velte IV Paul C. Velte IV, Attorney at Law
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Re: defered ajudication

So you're still having problems with employers and your supposedly "clean" record huh. I see this all the time. The reason is because some less scrupulous lawyers, and even some judges, are doing a dis-service to defendants by telling them that successfully finishing a term of deferred adjudication probation will result in their record being "kept clean."

The reality is that "your record"--in the form of a public court case file--will *always* show the fact that you were charged, plead guilty (or no contest), and received a term of probation. A successful discharge from a term of deferred adjudication probation only means that you were never technically "convicted," and therefore, you can answer a question of "have you ever been convicted" with a 'NO.'

This is how deferred adjudication probation works: Instead of the judge 'finding' you guilty, and then placing you on probation, the judge "finds that the evidence substantiates your guilt," and reserves the decision to find you guilty until a later time, then he places you on probation. This is why it is called "deferred adjudication"--the judge defers the act of adjudging guilt. If you finish the probation, you never were "found guilty." Hence, you were never "convicted." Lawyers came up with this little legal trick many years ago to help people avoid convictions.

The problem is, over the years, employers have caught on, and so nowadays, they usually do not merely ask if you have "ever been convicted," they instead ask, "have you ever been arrested" or "received deferred adjudication." And most employers treat a person who got deferred adjudication the same as a person who got convicted. So deferred adjudication probation is of little help, really, in keeping one's record "clean."

Another factor that I believe is making this a more serious problem is the fact that criminal records are now much more available to employers than they were in the past. Through computerization, it has become cheap and easy to check criminal histories. It used to be expensive and very difficult, or even impossible in some cases.

Many people are now learning the hard way that a criminal history will dog them forever. In the days before computers, it was very hard to find a complete criminal history, so most employers had little choice but to accept the applicant's word.

This is why people would pick up and move to a new state or town so they could start over with a fresh slate, so to speak, and not have their one screw-up as a young adult curse them for the rest of their life. Nowadays, with computers and better identification techniques, it has become impossible to deny your criminal history.

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8/23/04, 3:22 pm

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